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When the two Steves started Apple back in 1976, they dreamed of making a computer that people could use as a tool to change the world. Final Cut Pro is an Apple program worthy of the founders' vision. A community has formed around this tool, and people are making movies who weren't able to before. FCP is changing the way stories are told because it changes who's telling them.

In January 2003, Apple released Final Cut Express, a lower-cost, nonlinear editing and effects program. With Express handling the needs of entry-level users, Final Cut Pro is now free to develop into a bigger, faster, feature-rich, nonlinear beast.

Final Cut Pro HD 4.5, released in April 2004, is a free upgrade for Final Cut Pro 4.0 users. FCP HD 4.5 offers a light sprinkling of refinements throughout the program and another significant bump in real-time performance. FCP HD 4.5's big news is indicated in the application's name change: the latest FCP supports limited high-definition video (DVCPRO HD) capture, edit, and output via FireWire—without an additional hardware card.

FCP 3 users who skipped a version will marvel at the features introduced in FCP 4.0: a raft of new Timeline features, a new Audio Mixer, and customizable keyboard shortcuts. Under the hood, you'll find new clip-handling protocols designed to support video combined with audio from a separate source to create true merged clips. If that's not big enough for you, Final Cut Pro 4 ships with a suite of four new special-purpose applications: Soundtrack, LiveType, Compressor, and Cinema Tools.

My Visual QuickPro Guide has been thoroughly overhauled as well. I've reorganized the material and created more chapters. I've added coverage of new features and (only because this book is now at its upper size limit) dropped a few topics—adios, EDLs and QuickView tab.

This book, Final Cut Pro HD 4.5 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide, is the fourth revision of the original Final Cut Pro for Macintosh: Visual QuickPro Guide. This edition describes the operation of FCP HD 4.5. If you are using FCP 2, 3, or 4.0, much of this book should be a useful guide, but if you are using FCP version 1.2.5 or earlier, you'll need a copy of Final Cut Pro for Macintosh: Visual QuickPro Guide.

Who should use this book

Final Cut Pro HD 4.5 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickPro Guide is designed to be used by intermediate to advanced Mac users with some basic knowledge of video editing terms and procedures; explaining basic video production and editing is beyond the scope of this book. Final Cut Pro is designed to be easy to use, but it's still a professional-level video editing and compositing program. If you are not new to the Macintosh, but you're completely new to video editing, consider some basic training in video editing fundamentals before you plunge into this program. Try Apple's free iMovie program—it's a great way to get a taste of basic video editing in a stripped-down program that's a little easier for beginners to use. Also consider Final Cut Express, a simplified version of Final Cut Pro; it's a good choice if you want to work your way up to the Pro version.

What's in this book

The first part of the book starts with a quick feature overview of the entire program, followed by hardware setup, program installation, and preferences specification. Part I ends with a chapter devoted to FCP's project structure and clip handling.

The next two sections introduce the Capture, Browser, and Viewer windows—the Final Cut Pro tools you use for capturing, importing, and organizing media in preparation for an edit.

The fourth part of the book details the variety of ways that you can use FCP's editing tools to assemble and refine an edited sequence. This section covers basic editing procedures and the operation of the Timeline, Canvas, and Trim Edit windows.

The fifth section is devoted to using the program's special effects and compositing tools. You'll find an overview chapter plus chapters devoted to creating motion effects, using filters, and creating titles and other generator effects.

The final section includes three chapters on finishing your FCP project; one covers real-time playback and rendering techniques; the next lays out your options for outputting a final product. The final chapter walks you through FCP's media management tools and offers some general project management tips.

How to use this book

This guide is designed to be a Final Cut Pro user's companion, a reference guide with an emphasis on step-by-step descriptions of specific tasks. You'll encounter the following features:

  • “Anatomy” sections introduce the major program windows with large annotated illustrations identifying interface features and operation. If you're not a step-by-step kind of person, you can pick up quite a bit of information just by browsing these illustrations.

  • “FCP Protocol” sidebars lay out the protocols (the programming rules) that govern the way Final Cut Pro works. These sections are highly recommended reading for anyone interested in a serious relationship with this program.

  • Sidebars throughout the book highlight production techniques, project management ideas, and suggestions for streamlining your workflow.

  • Tips are short bits that call your attention to a neat trick or a cool feature, or warn you of a potential pitfall in the task at hand.

Learning Final Cut Pro

Here are some tips to help you get up and running in Final Cut Pro ASAP.

Basic theory

Two sidebars, one in Chapter 1 and another in Chapter 4, are referred to throughout this book. You don't absolutely have to read these to operate Final Cut Pro, but understanding some of the basic concepts underlying the design of the program will make FCP much easier to learn.

What Is Nonlinear, Nondestructive Editing?” in Chapter 1 explains how nondestructive editing works and how it affects the operation of Final Cut Pro.

FCP Protocol: Clips and Sequences” in Chapter 4 explains the protocols governing clip and sequence versions, which are key to understanding how Final Cut Pro works.

FCP is context sensitive

The Final Cut Pro interface is context sensitive, which means that the options available in the program's menus and dialog boxes can vary depending on any of the following factors:

  • The external video hardware attached to your system

  • The setup configuration you specify when you install the program

  • The program window that is currently active

  • The program selection that you just made

The logic behind the context-sensitive design is sound: to simplify your life by removing irrelevant options from your view. However, because the interface is context sensitive, the menus and dialog boxes in your installation of Final Cut Pro may occasionally differ from those in the illustrations shown in this guide.

Test, test, test

Many times, what you are able to produce with Final Cut Pro depends on the capabilities of your external video hardware and the video format you are working in. So before you rush out and submit a budget or sign a contract, take your entire Final Cut Pro system, including your external video gear, for a test-drive.

Keyboard commands

Final Cut Pro was designed to support a wide variety of working styles ranging from heavy pointing, clicking, and dragging to entirely keyboard-based editing. More keyboard commands are available than those listed in the individual tasks in this book. You'll find a comprehensive list of commands in Appendix B, “Keyboard Shortcuts.”

Shortcut menus

Final Cut Pro makes extensive use of shortcut menus. As you explore the program, Control-clicking items and interface elements is a quick way to see your options in many areas of the FCP interface, and it can speed up the learning process.

Refer to the manual

I'm happy to be able to recommend the official Final Cut Pro User's Manual that ships with the program (that's why the box is so heavy). Apple documentors packed the fourth edition with basic FCP information and added explanatory sections for beginning editors, complete lists of FCP filters, shots of every shortcut menu in the program, 100+ pages devoted to working with audio, and so on. The FCP manual runs to four volumes for the Final Cut Pro 4 release. FCP HD 4.5 features are covered in New Features in Final Cut Pro HD, a 125-page PDF. I'll occasionally refer you to a specific section of the official manual that covers a topic in much more detail than this book can accommodate. (Still, the official manual did miss a few items covered here, and this Visual QuickPro Guide is much easier to carry around.)

Check out the Knowledge Base

Apple posts a steady stream of valuable Final Cut Pro articles and updates in its online Knowledge Base. The company also posts information about FCP “known issues” (that's corporate-speak for bugs) as Knowledge Base articles. See Appendix A, “Online Resources,” for information on locating the Knowledge Base.

The Web is your friend

Using the World Wide Web is an essential part of using Final Cut Pro. Apple, as well as the manufacturers of the video hardware you'll be using with Final Cut Pro, relies on the Web to inform users of the latest developments and program updates, and to provide technical support. You'll find a starter list of online resources in Appendix A and specific URLs sprinkled throughout this book. There are some great sources of information, technical help, and camaraderie out there. If you get stuck or encounter difficulties getting under way, go online and start asking questions. After you've learned the program, go online and answer questions. Helping other people is a great way to learn.

Where to find more information

Check out Appendix A, “Online Resources,” for a list of helpful Web sites.

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